Inbound Marketing Is A Funnel, Not A Trap

February 21st, 2014          6 Comments

Imagine you’re walking down the street in a city you’ve never been to, looking for a good place to grab a slice of pizza.

You come upon the first pizza shop on the block. It has a huge blinking neon sign that screams “BEST PIZZA ON THE PLANET!”. You can’t really see inside the windows due to huge posters depicting delicious looking pies with all the toppings covering the glass. On the door there is a sign that says “For the next hour only, buy 3 slices and get a free 20oz soda! Don’t miss out on this incredible offer!”.

Thinking you clearly you won’t find a better option, you step inside and order your meal. After waiting a half hour, your slices and soda are brought out, and your face renders a look of utter disappointment. The pizza looks like it has been sitting out under a heat lamp for days, the cheese and toppings looking “aged”. Your soda is watered down and flat. Total bummer.

You decide to avoid the meal all together and press on to find a better place to eat, totally fine with taking the hit on your initial pizza investment.

You happen upon another pizza place on the next block. A simple sign outside says “Honestly Good Pizza”. Outside of the door, there is a gentleman handing out free bite size samples of their pizza. It’s delicious. Once inside, there’s a large window peering into the kitchen, where you can see all the care being put into crafting your fresh pizza…

Now which place would you choose?

It might sound silly, but the same type of logic can be said about the different philosophies of inbound marketing. Sure, both ways of doing things convert, but if you’re looking to build lasting relationships with people, have them identify with your brand, become raving fans, return customers and brand advocates for you, there’s only one way of doing things.

Marketing Trap vs Marketing Funnel

Tactics like that of pizza place #1 are what we call “all hat and no cattle”, with the pizza place tactics being replaced with things like “too good to be true” squeeze pages and scary fire sale copywriting. Creating clever traps in order to make a quick, lazy buck. But where’s the value in that? And how long will it take before the gig is up?

Instead, why not create a marketing funnel that is a delight to your visitors. One that allows them to engage with your brand on their own terms, and at their own pace. Here’s some ways you can do just that:

Elements of a Marketing Funnel that Resonates

  • Educate, don’t sell: Gone are the days of the traditional sales person. By the time people first interact with your brand, chances are they have a good idea of what they want already, they don’t need some salesperson pushing them into something. Instead, educate them on the unique aspects of what you’re selling, how people are currently using your product or service and how it’s helping them to solve a specific problem.
  • Engage with your audience, don’t speak at them: Personality and trust go along way, especially on the internet. It is our job as marketers to make the steps from first engagement to becoming a customer as easy and seamless as possible. Ask for feedback every step of the way. Find out where any roadblocks may be, and address their concerns. Learn from this process and improve your marketing funnel according to the data you collect.
  • Be transparent with what your selling and its value:I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it is absolutely crucial for buyers to know exactly what to expect, on both sides of the transaction. Not only will being transparent and candid about exactly what you are offering actually aid in the buying process, when that same expectation is met on the other side of the pay button, you gain that person’s trust, and have created a positive relationship. By doing this you’re taking steps toward lifetime customers and brand advocates alike.

Take it from me, I’ve worked with clients on both sides of this philosophy battle. No one wants a disappointing slice of pizza.

About Josh Patterson

Josh is a young entrepreneur & inbound marketer from Baltimore, has an unhealthy obsession with tacos, a love of craft beer and is known to occasionally grow a pretty mean mustache. Founder @Steamloft.   


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 6 Comments on Inbound Marketing Is A Funnel, Not A Trap

Joe Pack says: February 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Josh, this post is fantastic. I have been thinking about something along these lines for a while now so I was really happy to read this post.

The challenge still lies with the fact a lot of business are in such a rush that they skip the consumer retention game and go straight to SELL SELL SELL.

Every business seems to care so much about customer acquisition, when they should really be focusing on customer retention.

Josh Patterson says: February 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Joe, you hit the nail on the head! While things like conversion rate are definitely still important to overall success, focusing on great products and service and a brand that delights can do so much more for your bottom line than any conversion optimization will ever be able to. Thanks for reading!

Craig Lindberg says: February 24, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Josh, there’s also an old saying “that you can make a pizza so cheap, no one will eat it” which came to mind reading your post which also conjured up another issue of plain old product integrity, a topic so fundamentally critical that no amount of great inbound work can compensate for it. That aside, all your points about inbound marketing are true but there’s a problem with your title; inbound can be a trap. By that I mean many companies go into it with, shall we say unrealistic expectations like namely the amount of time and resource necessary to sustain, maintain and power a true conversion machine. Content is the fuel it runs on and much like what happened when they started putting ethanol in our gasoline, suddenly it took more fuel to go the same distance; it just didn’t have the same energy content. So what the heck does that have to do with inbound? We are experiencing an astronomical, exponential growth in online content which dilutes it’s power and so it takes more and more content to “go the same distance” ie., powering a robust, organically driven inbound marketing program. And the discomforting part about this equation is it will only get worse, not better. That is the trap and the spiral some are starting to see and talk about.

Josh Patterson says: February 25, 2014 at 10:29 am

What’s up Craig, thanks for sharing! Definitely agree with the fact that due to the nature of content online, inbound efforts have become very diluted. I also agree that not many know what it takes to create enough content to make an impact. I deal with this dilemma on a daily basis with my clients. I think a great solution to this problem however is by stepping outside of the box of the norm in regards to content within a specific industry or niche. Instead of having to make more, better content than others in your space, by taking a different approach to content you can diversify yourself without creating much more work for yourself and business.

For example, I have a client in the network security niche. Most of the other businesses in the space spend their time creating lengthy case studies and whitepapers, which can be a monster of a task for a business new to inbound to compete with. Instead, we’re focusing on quick, 30 second video blogs relating to relevant, timely issues in the security industry. We’ve put a good amount of effort in on the front end to brand the video series and get the word out, however the day to day of things are much easier and natural for the content creators at this company than having to sit down and write thousands of words on the subject weekly. These videos are also transcribed and posted along with the video, providing SEO value.

I also think another way of “hacking” content production is the idea of repurposing other content you may have laying around. Things such as support emails make great how-to content, blog posts on a specific subject make great compilation ebooks, the list is almost endless.

Smart inbound marketing is definitely going to come down to not who can make the most, best content, but who can do so most efficiently.

Thanks again Craig!


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